Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 67(1) February 2017

Book Review

Bioethics and the Human Goods: an Introduction to Natural Bioethics

Alfonso Gomez Lobo and John Keown

Book CoverWorking in healthcare is no simple issue. The biological sciences can be easy but the circumstances of practice are rarely uncomplicated. It has become an imperative that all health workers, indeed all carers, take on the basics of Bioethics to ensure the integrity of their decision making and their behaviour to optimise benefits for each and every patient.

And so it is that there is a great need for ethicists to supply a simple and instructive account of the arguments and analysis of the field for those who work at the front end of patient care. It is here that this book has its value and its usage. Now sadly deceased Gomez-Lobo wrote an un­published manuscript which John Keown formed into the book “Bioethics and the Human Good.” Those looking for an outline are fortunate he did. This is, however, not simplistic in its brevity. From the viewpoint of Natural Law each and every subject is taken and analysed with examples to produce a moral conclusion which is impressive in its clarity and balanced well-argued statements.

All subjects are presented with arguments and counter-arguments on Bioethical thinking, Principles and the divides which situations throw up. Topics vary from transplantation to the beginning and end of Life issues, each dealt with clearly and logically. Underlying this comes through the over-riding respect that Gomez Lobo obviously had for all forms of life at all stages of development and in all circumstances no matter how complicated or stressful they may be. In essence the result of reading this book is that one enters the mind of the author and enjoys the intellectual ride on which he takes the recipient, acting as a thoughtful and confident guide through what otherwise could be a complicated minefield of decision making.

If we do not have a correct appreciation and understanding of the fundamental human goods then we will have a life that is stunted, both humanly and morally.

Taking the biological journey of reproduction through from pre-conception to delivery, Gomez makes his case against abortion in logical steps, debunking Utilitarianism and modern pragmatism to produce a logical argument for the primacy of the embryo and foetus.

At the other end of the living process he teases out the deficiencies in arguments for euthanasia and assisted suicide. The beauty of his logic is that it is so comprehen­sive and yet so simple. Any novice like myself can follow with ease and be drawn in by the almost lyrical style of the presentation. Transplantation is similarly treated with insights into the modern need for caution over the search for organ donors among the dying or the infirm.

The positive attitude and respect for Life is best summarised by the author in his Epilogue, when, speaking of what he refers to as the need for “a correct appreciation and understanding of the fundamental human goods” he makes the observation that “If we get them wrong... then we will have a life that is stunted, both humanly and morally.”

Never were truer words spoken of our current status. Never was there a greater need to recommend this as a starting point. I recommend it for all. The reader will be informed and educated.

Dr Anthony John Warren,
retired Consultant Psychiatrist.  Hon Treasurer CMA